On May 20, 2020, Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a news release to announce that the CSA has published new local blanket orders (New Blanket Orders) for market participants that provide a 45-day extension for periodic filings normally required to be made by non-investment fund issuers between June 2, 2020 and
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the novel challenges with which public companies around the world have been faced, Glass Lewis & Co. (“Glass Lewis”) and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), two established proxy advisory firms, have released updates in connection with how their voting policies will be applied in the course of the 2020 proxy season. The central themes from both advisors are that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating exceptional and difficult circumstances for Boards to navigate, and that the firms will have an increased flexibility in their approach to proxy contest reviews, with an emphasis on the quality of companies’ decision-making, disclosure and reasoning in respect of any changes to governance, compensation and capital structure.Continue Reading Proxy Voting Guidelines in the COVID-19 Context
On July 27, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) announced in CSA Staff Notice 51-351 Continuous Disclosure Review Program Activities for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017 that a CSA Staff Notice detailing the results of the continuous disclosure review program (CD Review Program) will be published every two years instead of annually. As a result, there will be no CSA Staff Notice related to the CD Review Program for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017 and instead the next CSA Staff Notice will be for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018.
CSA Staff Notices regarding the results of the CD Review Program are aimed at providing an overview of common continuous disclosure deficiencies. Further details regarding the CD Review Program can be found in CSA Staff Notice 51-312 (revised) Harmonized Continuous Disclosure Review Program and have been summarized below.
In 2004, the CSA established the CD Review Program. The goal of the CD Review Program is to improve the completeness, quality and timeliness of continuous disclosure by reporting issuers in Canada. The CD Review Program educates issuers during continuous disclosure reviews and identifies material disclosure deficiencies and questionable transactions that affect the reliability and accuracy of an issuer’s disclosure record.
Under the CD Review program, the principal regulator is responsible for reviewing the issuer’s continuous disclosure record and taking further steps related to continuous disclosure compliance. The CSA uses a risk-based approach to select issuers to review and to determine the type of reviews to conduct, which can either be a “full” review or an “issue-oriented” review. Staff review the overall quality of the issuer’s disclosure, and in particular, assess whether there is sufficient information for the reader to understand the issuer’s financial performance, financial position, business risks and future prospects. Issues identified during the review are typically communicated to the issuer through a comment letter, which then invites the issuer to provide a written response.Continue Reading The CSA’s Continuous Disclosure Review Program
In late May 2016, the TSX proposed amendments to the TSX Company Manual (Initial Proposal), most notably in Part IV, which contains the requirements for maintaining a listing. In our earlier post, we provided an overview of the Initial Proposal, which was to introduce a requirement for certain corporate documents to be disclosed, and publicly accessible, on a listed issuer’s website. In the Initial Proposal, the TSX pointed out that while many relevant corporate documents are already publicly available (typically on SEDAR), they are often difficult to find and categorize.
At the conclusion of the initial comment period, the TSX identified concerns from market participants regarding the potential increased regulatory burden and the general uncertainty surrounding the types of documents that fall within the scope of the Initial Proposal. As a result, the proposed amendments were revised (Revised Proposal) and the TSX has issued a further request for comments, to be completed by May 8, 2017. While the rationale of providing participants with easy centralized access to key information remains unchanged, the Revised Proposal attempts to remedy the potential regulatory burden and clarity issues of the Initial Proposal.
The Initial Proposal created ambiguity by providing for broad categories of documents, with short non-exhaustive lists as guidance, that an issuer would be required to post online. For example, an issuer was required to post “constating documents including articles, trust indentures, partnership agreements, by-laws and other similar documents” and “corporate policies that may impact meetings of security holders and voting, including advance notice and majority voting policies.” The Revised Proposal attempts to address the ambiguity by providing specific lists (for example, “articles of incorporation, amalgamation, continuation…”) and in some cases, a catch-all for documents of a similar nature.Continue Reading Website Disclosure by TSX Issuers – Revised Proposal
Shareholder Control over Executive Compensation under Bill 101
Bill 101, An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act (Bill 101), proposes a number of updates to the Ontario Business Corporations Act (OBCA). Introduced as a private member’s bill in early March, Bill 101 aims to shift power to shareholders through amendments in areas such as shareholder meetings, shareholder proxies, as well as the election and diversity requirements of directors. Among Bill 101’s most ambitious changes is to provide shareholders with power over executive compensation. These executive compensation amendments build on a trend in which many public companies are voluntarily providing shareholders with a “say-on-pay”. Bill 101’s proposal in this area, however, goes much further by providing shareholders with the unprecedented ability to both propose and approve executive remuneration policies. The implications of this power raises important questions regarding the respective responsibilities and duties of directors and shareholders.
Shareholders’ Current Say-On-Pay
Most Canadian business statutes, including the OBCA and the Canada Business Corporations Act, explicitly provide directors with the authority to fix compensation for directors, officers and employees, subject only to the company’s articles, by-laws and any unanimous shareholder agreement. Today in Canada there are no corporate or securities laws that provide shareholders with the ability to approve, much less propose, executive compensation.
While not legally required to do so, a trend in recent years has seen many publicly listed Canadian companies voluntarily provide shareholders with a vote on executive compensation. These say-on-pay motions are advisory only, with the results not binding the directors’ decisions. Although non-binding, the say-on-pay process is seen as providing shareholders with value by encouraging directors to consider and clearly explain compensation policies to shareholders.
While the voluntary adoption of non-binding advisory votes is steadily increasing, Canada lags behind certain other jurisdictions in both mandating say-on-pay votes and in providing teeth to the votes through binding outcomes (see a recent Timely Disclosure post). For example, the United Kingdom and Australia have mandated periodic shareholder votes on executive compensation policies.Continue Reading A Radical Shift to Say-On-Pay under OBCA’s Bill 101
On April 6,2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released CSA Consultation Paper 51-404 Considerations for Reducing Regulatory Burden for Non-Investment Fund Reporting Issuers (Consultation Paper 51-404). The purpose of Consultation Paper 51-404 is to consider certain legal requirements where the CSA believes there may be ways to reduce the costs and burdens of regulatory requirements…
Stephen Erlichman recently wrote “Majority Voting: Latest Developments in Canada”, a short piece published in the March 22 edition of the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation. The article explains the latest developments in Canada with respect to 1) the Toronto Stock Exchange’s new guidance with respect to its…
It would be an understatement to characterize the presence and use of social media in our daily lives as being ubiquitous in scope and nature. The proliferation of social media venues allows us to communicate and share ideas and opinions in a manner beyond anything that we have experienced in human existence. The casual observer…
Recent computer-security breaches have brought to the forefront the need for enhanced cybersecurity and disclosures surrounding cybersecurity risks.
In response to the growing risks associated with a digitally-linked world, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued Staff Notice 11-332 Cybersecurity to review current issues in cybersecurity from a reporting issuer’s point of view. That Staff Notice…
As the New Year rolls along, so does commentary on executive compensation. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, by 11:47 am on the first working day of 2017 (January 3rd) Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs on the TSX index had earned the equivalent of the average annual Canadian wage.
Shareholder votes on the executive compensation disclosed in management proxy circulars (“say on pay”) are not mandated in Canada. However, according to the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations, 80% of the largest Canadian companies have adopted the practice voluntarily or as a result of pressure from investors.
Say on pay initiatives have been well under way in many jurisdictions for a number of years and the reviews are in.
International Say On Pay
In the US, under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Securities Exchange Commission requires a mandatory advisory say on pay for top executives compensation for public companies. Under the compensation discussion and analysis section of the proxy statement, shareholders do not vote on bonuses, stock options, retirement pay or other specific elements of compensation, simply an “up” or “down” to compensation.
In the UK, companies with shares on the Financial Services Authority’s List require a binding (rather than advisory) annual say on pay vote by shareholders.Continue Reading The Canadian Say on “Say on Pay”